One of the most effective ways to encourage your kids to develop a love of real food is to get them involved in preparing meals with you.
Kids love cooking and research has proven time and time again that when they have some involvement in the creating of the meal, they are much more likely to eat it.
Getting your kids in the kitchen isn’t as time consuming or messy as you’re thinking. They don’t have to commit to preparing a whole meal – rather any age-appropriate involvement will give them a sense of achievement and this is very empowering. So here are six fun and healthy meal ideas to prepare with your kids:
1. Fun Sticks
This is a great way to get kids to eat vegetables and use up leftovers. Prepare leftover meat, steamed vegetables or softer raw veggies, cubes of cheese and get your kids to thread them onto a skewer. A dipping sauce can be added to get fussy kids over the line.
2. Veggie trains or princess carriages
Cut capsicum in half (lengthways) and remove the seeds. Cucumber makes great wheels. Fill the carriages with dip and veggie sticks.
3. Egg cups
Pop a cupcake case into a muffin pan and get your kids to choose what veggies or meat they’d like in their egg cup. Finely dice the fillings they’ve chosen (older kids can do this themselves) and get them to add to each case. For example, bacon, spinach and mushrooms. Beat about one egg for every two cases and pour over the filling. Pop in the oven and cook until the egg is set.
Either make your own bases or use bread or wraps for bases. Get your kids to smear some tomato paste on the base and again choose from prepared toppings (bacon, ham, fresh pineapple, capsicum, grated carrot, mushrooms, shredded baby spinach or basil leaves) finishing with grated cheese.
I know many kids are salad resistant and one sure way of converting them is to have them help make one. Start with getting them to wash and spin the salad in a salad spinner – kids absolutely love doing this. Allow them to have some say in what else goes in the salad and don’t forget to remind them that they helped make it.
6. Smoothies and ice blocks
All kids love pushing buttons right? So whip up a smoothie and give them supervised control of the blender. Allow them to have some input into what goes in it and remember any leftover smoothie can go into an iceblock mould (or a cup with a popsicle stick) to freeze for a healthy treat another day.
Remember to offer loads of praise for any contribution in the kitchen and always remind them how they helped ‘cook’ the meal or snack (even if they only spent a few minutes doing so). A love of preparing meals from whole foods is such a valuable life skill and it’s never too early for kids to contribute in the kitchen.